India Pale Ales (IPA)

[Beer Review] A Triple Shot of New Treats From Zipline Brewing Company

October is in the air and while at least one of the three beers up on the docket isn’t strictly here for the bonfires and falling leaves, it is brand new to Zipline’s year round lineup. First off, we’ll dive into the crushable hoppy session IPA, Alpha Modern; move into the fall delights of the toasty Festbier and finish off with dark decadence of Zipline’s latest seasonal, Coconut Stout. 

Alpha Modern

Over the course of their existence Zipline hasn’t exactly been known for their witty Beer names or boldness in their packaged releases–sticking almost exclusively to nailing traditional recipes with on-the-nose names (IPA, Oatmeal Porter, Copper-Alt, Kölsch and so on). Nowhere on the quality scale is there a check mark for “Clever Beer Name”, so the fact that to this point Zipline’s biggest “sin” is laziness in naming beer is a testament to how well they nail the styles they do release–seeing as few of their offerings will warrant grunts of disgust. 

In steps Alpha Modern. In name alone you’d be hard pressed to pin down exactly what you’re gonna be sipping on, aside from the Alpha precursor which undoubtedly hints at the almighty hop. Alpha Modern is a Session IPA to be exact, meaning that it’s alcohol content is mild with the hopes that the hop flavor pop with each drink–the end goal being that you can crush a sixer in a single sitting and not forget your kids’ names when you pick em up from daycare. And crush it you can. 

Pouring golden yellow and settling like hazy lemonade the nose on Alpha Modern is deliciously dank. Lemon pops through the soapy head with additional notes of pineapple. The fruity hops really shine from aroma and directly into taste. Crisp mouthfeel and carbonation bite help the zesty fruity crackle on your palate. Dank hops and lemon linger with each sip, demanding you to go in for one after another until the glass is empty and the flavors still linger like a siren song prompting you to open another and start all over again. As it warms (if it lasts long enough for you to let it) its IPA characteristics amplify–allowing a greater deal of acidic pineapple flavors to dominate in tandem with the dank aspects of the hops. 

Session IPA are often criticized for muting flavors and phoning in on aroma. Alpha Modern is guilty of neither. The beer sort of teases the appearance of the New England IPA craze, but maintains the straightforward integrity of the Session IPA mission statement and will quench the thirst of many a hop head. 

Rating: A- 


Festbier

The long running tradition of Oktoberfest beers has allowed for endless interpretations of the style. Over hopped variations lend to experimenting with rye spices and various other malt combinations. True to their beginnings, Zipline enters the market with straightforward execution of an Americanized version of the seasonal favorite. 

Pours light copper/gold and settles with a thin quickly dissolving head. Lots of malt on the nose–hints of burned caramel and buttered biscuits. Aroma very much paints the picture of Fall. First impression on taste is creamy caramel followed by toasty malts and a spicy bread-like finish. Very full mouthfeel that spreads nicely over the course of each sip. The flavors are sped through the drinking experience with a very slick and smooth character with virtually no alcohol bite (6% ABV) to be perceived. 

While there’s nothing here that’s going to jump out at you here and blow your mind, it’s just another example of an endlessly drinkable beer from the good folks at Zipline Brewing Company. Sure to be a Fall staple on the shelves in Nebraska for a long time to come. 

Rating: B


Coconut Stout

I’ve got a complicated relationship with coconut. As a young lad the only time it ever came across my taste buds was through treats like Snoballs and an unfortunate bite into a Mounds bar. As a kid, I don’t think I had the ability to appreciate the nuance of coconut. Flash forward to the first time I took a sip of Death by Cocout by Oskar Blues where my brain went through a cinematic quick cut of taste buds finally connecting the dots where as an adult the nuance aligned. 

Zipline’s Coconut Stout pours dark brown settling with a black appearance but with highlights around the glass. A thin slightly off-white head dissipates quickly as I took in the aroma–dark chocolate dominates and sweet coconut note cuts through at the end along with roasted coffee. Oskar Blues’ Death by Coconut I described once as a liquid Mounds bar–Zipline’s Coconut Stout is whatever the off-brand of that would be. It hits a lot of the same notes, but does them each with slightly less pizzazz. There’s coconut, there’s chocolate and there’s a roasted malt character. What sets Zipline’s apart and weakens its overall impact is that it’s a bit aqueous. Instead of pouring thick and having the appearance of oil you can tell by its muted color scheme it’s thin and the mouthfeel suffers as a result. The coconut does struggle to shine in favor of coffee forward flavors to the extent you could argue with is more of a coffee stout than a coconut stout. Good thing as a non-coffee drinker I actually semi-appreciate it in my beer. 

Credit where credit is due Zipline has been branching out of their style comfort zone in recent years. Their seasonal line has managed to deliver competent styles that adhere to closely to expectations, but I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be nice to see them take a step further with measurable risk here and there with some of their smaller format packaged offerings. 

Rating: B

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[Beer Review] Kros Strain’s Fairy Nectar–A Salacious Affair for Nebraska Hop Lovers

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like we’re in a weird place as craft beer fans where IPAs are a dime a dozen. While not necessarily a bad thing, the style has taken on a life of its own and some breweries are getting a little heavy handed with their various iterations–suffice to say I’ve got a Mango S’mores IPA review in the backlog. All that being said, being a craft beer drinker in Nebraska has been increasingly more exciting over the last few years. Not only because the distribution has taken off (to the point of being overwhelming), but breweries are popping up everywhere.

One such brewery that I reviewed once not too long ago is Kros Strain Brewing Company. One of Omaha’s youngest currently operating breweries, they’ve already made quite the splash in the metro area with their three standard releases (available pretty much where you can buy beer in the area) and some experimental variations on two of their most popular beers. One of them is the Fairy Nectar IPA. Brewed with Mosaic and Citra hops (my favorites) the beer pours golden with a slight haze and settled with a thin creamy head that, thanks to the nucleated brewery glass (featuring an etched hop at the bottom) it sticks around no matter how long you leave it sitting around–which, spoiler alert, probably won’t be long. (more…)

[Beer Reviews] Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Overpacked Mixed 15 Pack

Back when I first got into craft beer and drove to an area with vastly different distribution than what I’m used to one of the first brewiest I latched on to that weren’t readily available to me was Southern Tier. Of course, my first introduction was the wildly popular Pumking, but I also really dug releases like Live, 2XIPA, and their oak aged Unearthly. To this day when I find myself face to face with some of my favorites and new releases I do not hesitate to bring some home with me. Most recently I stumbled across their “new to me” mixed 15-pack jam packed with all new beers or new recipients I hadn’t had the chance to try–with the exception of Tangier. So with all that new, how could I resist the urge to chat/write about them?

Instead of deep diving into each beer like I would normally do with a full on beer review, this will be a collection of quick observations based on my own notes as I worked my way through this pack. Before we even begin I’ll lay down an unnecessary spoiler alert that if you can get this, then get it. Each beer is well worth introducing to your taste buds regardless of the fact that they might not redefine the beer landscape.  (more…)

Beer Review: Mocha IPA by Stone Brewing Company

stonemochaipa_tgofAs someone who tends not to drink coffee on a regular basis I’ve always been skeptical about the inclusion of them in my beer. Most of the time you will find that it’s predominantly kept to hefty stouts and porters, but every so often breweries like to push the boundaries of what is typically acceptable. Nowadays you can find the occasional coffee blond ale, or the less surprising coffee brown ale- either of those don’t seem quite as out-of-bounds as you might think–although tasting coffee in a beautifully golden beer is a bit off-putting. Blonde ales are conducive to adapting other flavors due to their low bitterness, but what if someone decided to take the world most bitter style of beer and throw some coffee it in? Like Stone Brewing Company’s new Mocha IPA.

Stone is not the first to cross this threshold. It’s also not their first try. Many might remember just before Stone was available almost everywhere you looked they released their Dayman Coffee IPA. I was not fortunate enough to try that one to compare it to the recent release of Mocha IPA, but one can assume that they are not all that dissimilar.  Mocha IPA is of the imperial variety and uses the talents of Cascade, Citra, and Amarillo hops to pair with the cocoa and coffee flavors. Before we get to that though, the beer pours a deep copper with a thin off-white head. Stone’s reputation of adding crazy amounts of hops to their beer generally sets an expectation when it comes to aroma. The super citrus tones are mostly absent on the nose, replaced by a somewhat funky mix of citrus, cocoa, and coffee. None of the aromas come through cleanly and leave a bit to be desired–the dankness of the hops seems muddled by stale coffee and dark chocolate/fudge notes.  (more…)

Beer Review: Double NZ IPA by Zipline Brewing Company

doublenzipa_tgofZipline Brewing Company (Lincoln, NE) has- over the last few years- posited itself as one of my favorite local breweries. Their beer portfolio probably isn’t going to turn any heads in terms of creativity, but the styles they put out in the market are always top notch in execution. Just this year they decided to axe their NZ IPA, which they referred to as a “fan favorite” and instead released a revamped IPA to the market- one I find to be a significant improvement over the NZ. Not one to disappoint fans they decided not to forget their roots, but expand them by making Double NZ IPA a seasonal release in 750 ML bottles. It’s now up for debate as to whether or not that is a good thing.

We’ll get to my final thoughts on the beer, but lets ease into it, shall we? Double NZ IPA pours beautifully into the glass settling just slightly hazy (possibly some chill haze) bright orange with a medium creamy layer of head- the lacing of which is pretty impressive, again dipping into Zipline’s ability to execute styles. (more…)

Beer Review: Frame the Butcher IPA by Kinkaider Brewing Company

 Growing in popularity in their home state and hailing from Broken Bow, Nebraska is Kinkaider Brewing Company. This micro brewery did something on April 1st that no other brewery in the state has attempted thus far. Bottling a beer, handing it to the distributor, in the hands of several retailers and in the glasses of fans across the state within hours of bottling- thanks in large part to House of Beers, their distributor. The bottling began at 12 a.m CST and this particular beer drinker had it in hand by 9 a.m. and in a glass to drink about an hour later. This sort of thing is common amongst some of the heavy hitters and whalez around the country, but a first here in Nebraska- particularly for a brewery several hours away from my stomping ground in Omaha.

Ok so big deal, right? Any brewery can make, distribute, and sell fresh beer- the real trick is making, distributing GREAT (even good) fresh beer. Luckily enough for anyone sipping this particular beverage, it’s quite good, maybe even quite great. The best way to describe what you’re getting when the beer is poured from their speak yet simple packaged bottles is a mild yet borderline refreshing IPA. The style itself contains a tapestry of hop bombs and bitter drain pours outside of the standbys and trade bait brands. Frame the Butcher doesn’t punch you in the face with any of its aroma or flavor, it settles you in and makes you feel right at home. As someone who tends to like an IPA’s aroma to be just slightly aggressive this beer does not hit that level, but it most definitely works for what Kinkaider is aiming for.  (more…)

Beer Review: Scratchtown Brewing Company Wonder Twins Double IPA

scratchtown_wondertwinsMosaic and citra hops are the hot ingredient this summer for many IPAs hitting the market. It’s not really a mystery, both are delicious as a single hop showcase, so it’s a no-brainer to throw them together and bring the collective of beer geeks to the bring of euphoria. Here in Nebraska we aren’t necessarily hurting for good beer, but we often don’t locally source the types of beers that craft beer junkies are jonesin for and overvalue in trades. In steps Scratchtown Brewing Company with a double IPA that rivals some of the best on the market.

Scratchtown’s Wonder Twins Double IPA comes in a 22oz bottle and is a mosaic/citra hop bomb. Coming out of Ord, Nebraska Scratchtown in and of themselves until recently have not been readily available in many markets outside of their little corner of the world. Their first foray into the bottle distribution game was their Black Eye Imperial Porter- which much like Wonder Twins is a fantastic representation of its style.  (more…)

Beer Review: Modern Times’ Booming Rollers

IMG_5994 Livining in the Midwest, beer lovers often stare longingly out the window dreaming of the golden suds being made out on the West Coast. Folks in California are spoiled by the likes of Pliny the Elder and many of Russian River’s other stellar beers. Now, over the last couple years a new contender for up and coming CA brewery Modern Times has been churning out an impressive lineup of solid beers. This review will focus on their recently released seasonal offering, Booming Rollers.

Billed as a Hoppy Citra IPA per the text on the front of the 16oz can, Booming Rollers is incredibly aromatic right from the opening of the can. There is a slight haze around the glass that only slightly clears up when sitting in the glass for a few minutes, but settles a bright golden color with a thin tightly packed layer of foam.  (more…)

Beer Review: Carton Brewing Company’s Boat Session Ale

cartonboat_tgofMaybe I’m getting soft in my old age. Maybe I’m a little too sensitive about my age, which isn’t that old by traditional standards, but I am a huge fan of the trend of session ales/session IPAs. You get all the flavor with half or less of the ABV that you generally expect from the india pale ale style. It’s the fact that I’m so on board with these low ABV beers that I’m wondering if I’m slipping with age that I don’t crave the challenge of high alcohol beers and side in favor of a beer I can drink all day long with less risk of getting hammered. That being said, it’s been tough finding local session beers that I’m happy to drink all day long. I have my go to’s that I would call “sessionable” but the ABV is technically higher than that word really signifies.

Session beers are beers that you can enjoy in a single sitting or for an extended amount of time without the added risk dying of alcohol poisoning- at least that’s my well thought out explanation. Lots of beers can be described as such though- I can think of several right off the top of my head I could “session,” but because they carry a higher alcohol content my body is gonna hate me in the long run. The trend of Session Ales is meant to bring a beer that is (usually) less than 5% ABV, maybe even less than 4% depending on the style. IPAs are my poison though and if you can give me all the IPA flavor with less of the ABV I will follow you around like a puppy for the rest of my days. Carton Brewing Company is the latest brewery to bear that cross as of late due to a generous Untappd friend who bestowed upon me some cans of their Boat Session Ale.  (more…)

Beer Review: Zipline Brewing Dry-Hopped Black IPA

zipline_blackipaNebraska has been enjoying a bit of a craft beer boom over the last few years. Several new breweries have opened their doors over the last year alone and others are celebrating young anniversaries. The fastest growing of the younger breweries is none other than Zipline out of Lincoln. Zipline expanded distribution for the first time last year across the border into Iowa and recently announced a small expansion to Eastern South Dakota. Their growth in the state is very exciting since they are putting out some pretty solid beers and I’d love to see their name growing in the minds of craft beer nerds all over the country.

Zipline began their bottling sometime in the Fall of 2013 and have slowly been rolling out a number of year round releases such as their Copper Alt, NZ IPA, Nut Brown and Kolsch, but also some larger 750ML Barrel-Aged releases. Their most recent bottled release happens to be the Dry-Hopped Black IPA. As one would expect, this beer pours….black- or a really dark brown as you can see just a bit of highlight around the class from the right angles. It boasts a thin, off white head and once settled appears to be pitch black in the glass- giving it a beautiful black velvety appearance.  (more…)